Back to Paris / The joys of pacing

As you probably know this year I went back to Paris to run the half marathon there. I signed up to run with my sister who unfortunately hurt her knee during training and couldn’t compete. This left me with the prospect of running on my own and I have to say this isn’t something I was too happy about. Semi de Paris 2012 was a stinker of a race for me and my worst half marathon time to date – it was cold, wet and miserable and I just had an awful run. The idea of reliving this experience was providing me as much delight as the idea of being consistently given electric shocks on soles of my feet for two hours while listening to Carly Rae Jepson on repeat.

As the day got closer I was feeling less and less fit. Marathon training fatigue has worn my speed down and I had a dodgy hamstring. I was not feeling ready to face my nemesis and the idea of having another rubbish race in Paris was just not an option. Luckily for me I have some awesome running friends and I knew some babes looking for a new sub-2 PB. Although not up to my normal fitness I knew that sub 2 was still relatively comfortable for me and instead of wallowing in marathon induced misery I decided to do something much more fun and see if I could help set a pace that’ll help my friends to a new PB. I made a plan with Duns to pace a sub 2 hour half. Best decision ever.

7am flight to Paris with my big sister!

Thanks to a 4am start on Saturday morning I was pretty sleepy come Sunday and didn’t wake up in time for the pre-RDC photo, pep talk from Charlie and mandatory AWAY AWAY AWAY. I rocked up at the start line having completely missed ALL RDC fun and consequently couldn’t find Hannah anywhere. Shit. Not only was I now going to have to race alone but I was going to let down my friends. I suck. I sulked in to the 2:00 pen and who did I find…DUNS! And she wasn’t alone. She was with other RDC friends Glenn, Caz, Belinda, Elles, Paulie and Venetia. I got TOO excited about seeing them and talked all their faces off.

It was a perfect day for running – cold but not too cold and beautifully sunny. We set off behind pace because of the crowds – you can’t really weave in and out with a big group – and I felt a bit nervous. I’d never paced anyone before and was worried about (i) running too slowly for fear of burning people out and then cheating people of a new PB and (ii) running too fast and actually burning people out and still cheating people of a new PB. It was quite scary and I was honoured that my friends had placed that much trust in me! No need for nerves though as everyone was on fighting form and taking to the pace amazingly.

We got halfway round and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was SO HAPPY I thought I might pop. It was a beautiful day and Paris looked stunning. I was running with an amazing group of friends who were all supporting each other – asking how the pace was, how people were feeling, who needed water and did anyone want a shotblok? THIS is why I run. Glorious.

Clearly living the dream.

We were in to our tenth mile and Belinda was pushing ahead and clearly had more to give. After a quick catch up Hannah said that she wasn’t sure she was going to hit 2 hours and told Belinda to push on – true friendship! Belinda wanted to push for sub-2 but by this time all the group keeping together had knocked our pace down and we’d have to speed up quite a bit to hit 1:59. Like a true champ Belinda was game and so we upped the pace.

I was torn between feeling awful for pushing the pace at the hardest point in the race (mile 10, on a hill!) and wanting to push harder to make sure we hit our target. I decided to push and see how far we could get and it was amazing, like a race against time through the streets of Paris! We forged a path through runners dead and dying (everyone knows miles 11-13 are no mans land) and blasted past Cheer Dem Crew with a woop and a wave. My lovely sister was waiting there and I was sad to be on the other side of the road and miss a high 5 from her.

We really pushed the last 500m or so and the last 150m was a full blown sprint for the finish line – definitely the most exciting and strongest race finish I’ve ever had! Belinda and I crossed the line together in 2:01 – so close! We had a tough task on our hands trying to make up time but after our efforts I think we were a little disappointed not to hit 2 hours. Still, it was a PB by a few minutes for Belinda and the most fun race I’ve ever had. Before entering the starting pen I’d never met Belinda but as soon as we finished we gave each other a huge hug and wandered off to find medals, foil blankets and orange segments. Running really brought us together and I’m so pleased we raced together and had the chance to chat.

Running is supposed to be a solo sport but it’s got the best community out there. Paris half 2013 was my slowest and best race to date all thanks to some of the amazing people I run with at RDC. It’s soppy but it’s true – the bonds we form while clocking up miles are strong and we support each other through some of our toughest moments, helping one another and celebrating together when it’s all over with. Time is irrelevant – time spent helping people you care about achieve something new is just about one of the best things you can do. Pacing is awesome and I think everyone should try it. You never know, you might make a new friend!